Jeremy Vine: This is the Old News, EIBF 2012, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Jeremy Vine with Peter Gutteridge (Chair)
Running time

Peter Gutteridge took the stage alone to introduce Jeremy Vine who then bounded on to the platform from the shadows. For this Experian Event, Jeremy Vine was marking his quarter of a century with the BBC and also introducing his book It's All News to Me.

It was a formidable display by a polished performer and although Vine said he admired his brother who did stand-up comedy, one could easily see that the ability to entertain an audience ran in the family.

Jeremy Vine talked about his relationship with the BBC which he saw as two elements - the 'power' and the 'glory'. Those who were on the BBC Board had the power and those in control of the technical side had power, while those who were in front of the microphones had all the glory.   But one had to remember that the technicians really were in the driving seat .  

He recalls one incident with Anne Robinson of "Weakest Link" fame.   She had been very rude to technicians on a rehearsal, so come the live programme the Technical Director, a fearsome man, was there.   When Anne Robinson put on her headphones she found they were not plugged in; turning to the Technical Director behind the glass she asked, "Am I supposed to plug this in myself?"  The reply came, "well it actually works better in the socket!"

Vine said that what was challenging about the BBC was that as a trainee you took time to find your way around as it was such a huge organisation.   One day he was told to dig out a clip of the Ali versus Foreman fight, 'the Rumble in the Jungle' so he looked through the directory and found 'Boxing' so he rang them.   A rather surprised voice at the other end said, "er, actually we just put things in boxes!"

He also recalled another story from a trip to Moscow where he came across a woman who had fallen down a manhole.  "Why on earth were there no warning flags round the hole she asked?"    Some Soviet citizens who had helped her said, "did you see the red flags at the airport?" "Of course," she replied, "well these are for the whole country!"

Peter Gutteridge asked how Vine had become interested in journalism and where he had trained.  He said that he took a journalism training course with the Coventry Evening Telegraph.  Those were the days of typewriters and to file copy you had to have three sheets with carbon paper in between; once completed the top copy went to the Sub Editor and then to the News Editor.   Both these men were very critical, but provided him with good training for journalism.  

Vine did contrast the days he worked on the paper when there were eighty four editorial staff. In today's digital age, eighteen people run the paper.   From being in a large building the paper now only occupies one level of an office building. He felt it was sad.

At the BBC Vine said when he was told he was to present the "Today" programme he was thrilled to be the youngest person to do so and told John Sergeant the news with some glee, Sergeant replied, "actually you want to be the oldest!"

It was interesting to hear about the rivalry and the sensitivities of people who were handing over programmes - Jeremy Vine was told "to keep a low profile" on several occasions.   There were plenty more stories about politicians and politics. 

Peter Mandelson was described by Jeremy Paxman as, "the only person who wants to be on television more than me!".

On ethics, Vine recalled asking John Prescott to comment on a new set of values that Tony Blair has set out for the Labour Party.    Prescott looked into the camera and straightened his tie, muttering that the values were all a waste of time and then proceeded to give an extremely upbeat interview supporting them very loyally. After the interview, when Prescott had gone, the cameraman said, "the camera was running and I have those earlier comments!" 

Vine said he had to wrestle with whether to use the earlier comments or not - in the end he did not. But yet the injudicious comments made by Gordon Brown to the woman at Rochdale, when he did not realise that his microphone was still live, were used.

Vine included a story about his time as an Africa correspondent when he was flying out with Blair in his aircraft and the media circus.   All the other journalists just wanted to ask about Cherie Blair's cellulite - she had been pictured on holiday in a swimming costume.   Eventually Alistair Campbell took a reporter on one side and said, "don't tell anyone, but the Prime Minister saved a man from drowning while on holiday".

Of course this went round all the journalists very quickly and they all wanted to get this followed up and investigated - the interest in Cherie Blair's cellulite evaporated!    Anyway, eventually the man was found and he protested that he did not know what all the fuss was about as he only swam past the Blair's boat and waved!

As a parting salvo, Vine said he recalled one interview by Jeremy Paxman, in December 1999, when he said to the German Ambassador, "well you've not had a very good century have you?"